Bribery Act needs rethinking in the consultation period

The Bribery Act needs significant reworking according to white-collar criminal solicitor Oliver Gardner.

Gardner, managing partner at Howards Solicitors, believes that the Act is clumsy and ill defined in planning and will prove controversial in implementation as it lacks concrete guidance.

The Bribery Act aims to attract inward investment to the UK by routing out corruption, primarily bribes. Its objective is to address issues such as facilitation payments (paying government officials to carry out their expected duties (being outlawed)) and the line between hospitality and bribery.

The UK has not led the way on stamping out the £1 trillion spent each year on bribery worldwide, as estimated by the World Bank. The UK Government first promised action in 1997 and the country dropped from 17th to 20th in the Corruption Perception Index in the last year.

Gardner comments: “The Bribery Act has a key glaring omission – it lacks concrete guidance. Further classification on areas such as the extent of liability for joint venture partners and hospitality are needed.

The Ministry of Justice has left it up to the courts to decide the remit and the scope of the Bribery Act, which will cause confusion.”

Gardner continues: “Ken Clarke and his department desperately need to use the three-month consultation period to make revisions and clarify the act’s provisions before it becomes law. At present, it is far too open to interpretation to satisfy as many parties as it can.

With draconian penalties – up to 10 years imprisonment for individuals and unlimited fines (companies) for the worst offenders – the Bribery Act is going to prove contentious if it is not tightened up and business does not know where it stands.”

Gardner concludes: “This was never going to be an easy task. The Bribery Act was never going to resolve a host of complex issues in one swoop. But successive governments have appeared slow to act, have flip flopped in the emphasis of the guidelines and consequently attracted additional criticism and suspicion.”

Oliver Gardner is available for further comment, interview and can supply original articles.